Lufthansa is looking beyond 2024 for the recovery in air travel

Posted August 6, 2020 7:14 a.m. EDT

— Demand for air travel will not fully recover until 2024 "at the earliest," Lufthansa said on Thursday as it unveiled a record quarterly loss and warned that layoffs in its home market, Germany, can no longer be ruled out.

The Lufthansa Group posted an operating loss of €1.7 billion ($2 billion) in the second quarter, as passenger numbers collapsed 96% to 1.7 million compared with the same period last year. Revenue fell 80% in the quarter.

"We are experiencing a caesura in global air traffic," CEO Carsten Spohr said in a statement. "We do not expect demand to return to pre-crisis levels before 2024. Especially for long-haul routes there will be no quick recovery," Spohr added.

Lufthansa, which owns airlines in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, needed a $10 billion bailout from the German government to survive the coronavirus pandemic. It has launched a sweeping restructuring program that will reduce its fleet by 13%, or 100 aircraft, and cut 22,000 jobs. About 8,300 jobs have already gone.

Lufthansa has placed large numbers of its employees on a government-backed short-time work program. But it said Thursday it can no longer avoid redundancies in Germany, where around 1,000 office jobs will be cut. Several thousand more jobs are expected to go among pilots and cabin crew.

"The market environment will remain challenging for years to come," the company said, noting that its airlines carried two-thirds fewer passengers in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year.

The group has also paid out €2 billion ($2.4 billion) in refunds to passengers for canceled flights.

Demand is "gradually starting to recover" for short-haul destinations and among tourists, Lufthansa said, adding that it expects to offer around 40% of last year's capacity by the end of October.

Airlines in Europe are set to lose $21.5 billion in 2020, a quarter of global airline losses, with passenger demand declining by over half, according to the International Air Transport Association. That puts at risk up to 7 million jobs supported by aviation in Europe alone, IATA said in June.

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